August 22, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria mayor wants to use grant for business loan fund

ELYRIA — Mayor Holly Brinda would like to see a slice of the Community Development Block Grant pie served up to help downtown businesses and business owners.

Brinda

Her idea, which was presented Monday during a public meeting to discuss the 2013 distribution of the federal funds, is to take $100,000 and start a revolving loan fund. The money will be available to those who have businesses in the downtown district or would like to establish such a business.

The loans could be as large as $50,000 or as small as $5,000 and go toward myriad uses including construction, renovation, parking lot development and inventory acquisition. As loans are paid back, additional loans will be given out to new businesses, Brinda said. Council would make final decisions on who gets a loan.

“We have to pick a geographic area to focus our attention,” she said. “We are not going to make as much of an impact if we are all over the place with our economic development approach. If you talk to business owners downtown, they accuse us — and sometimes rightfully so — of not helping existing businesses or not bringing in new businesses.”

Members of the City Council Community Development Committee did not vote Monday on how to divvy up the 2013 CDBG allocation, which is estimated to be roughly $771,000 — a combination of $585,000 in new allocations as well as money left over from 2012. But some seemed a little interested in Brinda’s idea.

Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said the program appears to be a good idea, but he wondered if the city has the capacity to pick up such a project on its own. In the last year, he said, Council has passed, on Brinda’s recommendation, several pieces of legislation geared toward economic development. Yet he wonders if her office is spreading itself too thin.

“Are we just creating something, doors of opportunity, but once people walk through the door we won’t have the details worked out to help them?” he said.

Brinda said her office, which has also started the Mayor’s Office on Volunteer Engagement this year, is reaching the point where it couldn’t take on another project, but revitalizing the downtown area is tantamount to revitalizing the city.

However, Councilwoman Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward, said she would like to see more information on how the proposed loan fund would be different from a similar idea presented last year by Main Street Elyria. Mitchell said the idea was shot down last year because the city did not want to become a bank chasing down delinquent loan recipients.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.